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Carbon addition alters vegetation composition on ex-arable fields

Author:
  • R Eschen
  • SR Mortimer
  • CS Lawson
  • AR Edwards
  • AJ Brook
  • JM Igual
  • Katarina Hedlund
  • U Schaffner
Publishing year: 2007
Language: English
Pages: 95-104
Publication/Series: Journal of Applied Ecology
Volume: 44
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

1. Recent changes in European agricultural policy have led to measures to reverse the loss of species-rich grasslands through the creation of new areas on ex-arable land. Ex-arable soils are often characterized by high inorganic nitrogen (N) levels, which lead to the rapid establishment of annual and fast-growing perennial species during the initial phase of habitat creation. The addition of carbon (C) to the soil has been suggested as a countermeasure to reduce plant-available N and alter competitive interactions among plant species.

2. To test the effect of C addition on habitat creation on ex-arable land, an experiment was set up on two recently abandoned fields in Switzerland and on two 6-year-old restoration sites in the UK. Carbon was added as a mixture of either sugar and sawdust or wood chips and sawdust during a period of 2 years. The effects of C addition on soil parameters and vegetation composition were assessed during the period of C additions and 1 year thereafter.



3. Soil nitrate concentrations were reduced at all sites within weeks of the first C addition, and remained low until cessation of the C additions. The overall effect of C addition on vegetation was a reduction in above-ground biomass and cover. At the Swiss sites, the addition of sugar and sawdust led to a relative increase in legume and forb cover and to a decrease in grass cover. The soil N availability, composition of soil micro-organisms and vegetation characteristics continued to be affected after cessation of C additions.



4. Synthesis and applications. The results suggest that C addition in grassland restoration is a useful management method to reduce N availability on ex-arable land. Carbon addition alters the vegetation composition by creating gaps in the vegetation that facilitates the establishment of late-seral plant species, and is most effective when started immediately after the abandonment of arable fields and applied over several years.

Keywords

  • Ecology

Other

Published
  • Soil Ecology
  • ISSN: 1365-2664
Katarina Hedlund
E-mail: katarina [dot] hedlund [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor

Biodiversity

+46 46 222 37 98

+46 72 562 10 04

E-A321

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Researcher

Centre for Environmental and Climate Research (CEC)

+46 46 222 37 98

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Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
Ecology building S-223 62 Lund Sweden